Division Two: Heaton ‘C’ 7 Harper Brass ‘B’ 2
Not reported in the wider press over the summer was the transfer of John Henry Scowcroft from Heaton ‘B’ to ‘Heaton ‘C’. Although seen in many quarters as a final acknowledgement that his 79-year-old body could no longer handle the rigours of life in Division One, the real story was somewhat different.
The largest clubs – Hilton, Heaton and Harper Brass – during the close season rejigged their teams and went from a combined 22 league teams (out of 60) to a lower figure of 20 (out of 59). Now representing 33.9% of the entire league these behemoths have had to cope with an economic downturn, injuries and in the case of Harper, a small mutiny.
Three key figures emerge from this – club functionaries in charge of combing through the squads and holding at least one annual meeting. Brian Young of Hilton, Paul Mort of Heaton and Kaushik Makwana of Harper Brass are effectively the dons of the Bolton table tennis scene. It is ‘Morty’ though who is central to this story.
When Johnny Scowcroft did not get the usual call before the start of the 2015/16 season, he began to wonder where his white and blue Stiga trainers would be squeaking come September. A familiar face on the circuit, Scowcroft – his barrel frame always decked out in green, Mizuno polo shirt and blue ‘velvet’ shorts – is not one to opt for muesli and rocking chair. His stats indicate a 4-5% decline each season, yet he is ever capable.
Behind the scenes Morty was talking to Division Three promoted captain, Mark Greenhalgh and it was this together with a hip injury to relegated Division One fellow, Bill Fairhurst that led to the cull of one team. A natural joining of players in Two was considered (to the detriment of sacrificial lamb, Greenhalgh) the best, but controversial way forward.
“Morty and myself had the conversation in late August. I knew Scowcroft was what we needed,” Greenhalgh generously conceded.
And so Scowcroft was unleashed in Division Two for the first time since 2012/13. His win percentage before this match was 83.33%. A satisfactory evening against my Harper strugglers only slightly dampened that: Versus Jeff Weston 8-11,11-8,12-10,11-8; versus Matthew Brown 6-11,11-9,11-3,11-9; but defeat to Dave Jones 6-11,7-11,8-11.
The consensus is: You cannot train someone up to be Johnny Scowcroft. He is unique and probably fell from the sky in a pod.